Timothy vs. Alfalfa (energy?) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 08-26-2011, 12:18 AM Thread Starter
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Timothy vs. Alfalfa (energy?)

Hey everyone! I have a question about alfalfa and timothy hay and what would best for my horse. So here's the problem...

I have recently started interning at a stable with a fellow (we'll call him Tom) that is really experienced with horses. He runs a trail riding stables and is a good roper. His horses are very healthy and love their job even though some of them have been doing it for years, almost every day. He mentioned that alfalfa made some of his horses jittery and hard to handle on the trail, and when he switched them back to Timothy they were fine. I asked if maybe that was the reason my mare was so hyper under saddle. (Shannon gets fed about 7 pounds of Alfalfa in the morning.) He said that was probably the problem, given she's normally calm. It makes sense. I only work her 2 or 3 times a week for an hour each time, so I don't want her to have a lot of energy.

But when I talked to my stable owner (let's call him James) he said that was not the problem and that, no, alfalfa doesn't give horses energy or make them 'hot.' He said it would make no difference to switch Shannon's hay. He also said that without alfalfa hay, she couldn't and wouldn't build muscle because of lack of protein...

So I just don't know what to do! I respect both James and Tom and they're both excellent with horses and horse care. I don't want to ignore either ones advice. But my main concern is what's best for my horse, not their ego. Right now, Shannon gets 7 pounds of Alfalfa in the morning and 7 pounds of Timothy at night. She doesn't have any grass to eat and no space to work off her energy - the only time she gets exercise is when I work with her. If I switch her to straight Timothy, will she not be able to gain muscle mass? I'm worried Timothy doesn't have enough nutrients in it. And she doesn't get any kind of supplement. If it makes any difference, she's fat as a barrel. The horses at the trail riding stable live in a similar situation - no grass and not much space to run around in. The only difference is they're worked more.

I've been thinking about switching for awhile just to see if it makes a difference, but I would like more opinions first.

Thank you!

You can tell a gelding. You can ask a stallion. But you must discuss it with a mare. -Unknown

Last edited by horseloverd2; 08-26-2011 at 12:21 AM.
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post #2 of 10 Old 08-26-2011, 07:40 AM
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The only way for you to get that answer is to take her completely off alfalfa and feed her timothy at both feedings.

Now that I've said that - yes some horses are sensitive to alfalfa. Alfalfa is high in protein and many horses don't need all that extra protein if they are not in hard work.

Hard work meaning they are being schooled hard every day for eventing, endurance riding, etc.

OR if the horse is in it's 20's then it most likely needs the extra protein alfalfa provides.

I have my 24 yr old & 25 yr old on 2 lbs to 3-1/2 lbs daily of soaked timothy/alfalfa cubes. It has boosted their energy level and their top lines.

I tried giving the 12 yr old and the 16 yr old a little bit just as treat over top of their supplements (I do not feed grain or grain products) and that was the wrong thing to do. The 12 yr old got nippy and the 16 yr old started lifting his back leg to kick like he used to do before I discovered he is oat/corn/soy intolerant.

Nothing wrong with alfalfa under the right conditions, but you will have to do some experimenting (witholding the alfalfa for a week) to see if it makes a difference.

You didn't mention what goes into her grain pan. It could also be a combination of the alfalfa and the feed.

None of which you know the answer to until you remove those things and then add them back one at a time
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post #3 of 10 Old 08-26-2011, 09:44 AM
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You cannot discuss the attitributes of the timothy or the alfalfa without a forage test.
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post #4 of 10 Old 08-26-2011, 03:17 PM
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I feed timothy (tried to supplement alfalfa in winter and gave up as they spread everything around) year around. They are as muscled as one can be (I bring them back to shape in Spring after long break). So I'd say putting right muscles back will depend on you mostly.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass: it's about learning to dance in the rain..."

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post #5 of 10 Old 08-27-2011, 08:38 AM
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many horses have a sensitivity to alfalfa and it has nothing to do with the protien :)

I switched all of mine from alfalfa pellets to timothy pellets and wow what a change

I have been called the NSC Nazi more then once ... I hate traditional feed methods of loading our horses up on grains and junk food :)
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post #6 of 10 Old 08-29-2011, 04:21 AM
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Horses need a minimum of 1.5% bwt/day in forage. Therefore 14lb of forage if there's no grass, is the minimum for a horse of 926lb. If you want her to gain weight, she needs more. 2-2.5% is the general rule. They also need free movement, for overall health & wellbeing, not just fitness or working off excess steam. If she has no exercise apart from a couple of hours a week, I'd be wanting to change that drastically. Also if she's only on hay, a good complete nutritional supp is also a good move.

I don't know what Timothy is specifically, but pasture, particularly mixed grasses is generally an adequate base feed for horses, so long as it's not too rich, such as clover & rye, for eg. Alfalfa/lucerne is a good feed for horses *generally*. It is low in sugar, but is high in energy, so great for horses than need condition, not so great for 'good doers'. It is very high in protein & calcium, among other nutrients, so should be fed in balance with other nutrients, or it can cause health issues due to imblanace/OD. For eg. excess Ca in relation to magnesium can bind the Mg, which among other probs, can cause a horses to be unduly nervous.

While your horse may need extra protein, she'll get some out of any hay, but she's also not likely to build any great muscle, regardless of nutrition, if she's not getting regular exercise - if you don't use it, you lose it.

For good diet/nutritional info, I'd be consulting an equine nutritionist - pref independant of feed co's. Feedxl.com is one good source. I use them myself & find them great.
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post #7 of 10 Old 08-29-2011, 04:26 AM Thread Starter
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I decided to switch to no alfalfa for a month. She may have sensitivity to it. Thanks for all your answers - keep them coming!
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post #8 of 10 Old 09-05-2011, 02:36 PM
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If i had to feed Casey hay, I would feed all Timothy. Not as a matter as hottness, it is just that grass is better for horses than legumes... Period. I mean you could feed 1-2 pounds plus that grass if you work them hard. When you say you are worried about the lack of nutrients in the timothy hay, alfalfa does NOT give the right amount of vitamins/minerals, for example, its very high in calcium, and basically no phosphorous. So your horse's calcium:phosphorous ratio was probably not balanced. So, I would recommend feeding all grass hay, and feeding a supplement meant for horses that are easy keepers and are on only grass hay, such as SmartVite EZ Keeper Grass Pellets. (no I am not a marketer for smartpak, i just found the mineral supplement for easy keepers fed grass hay!) Also, I found that feeding Alfalfa adds more protein, which means that you will end up with stored energy as fat- which explains why your horse has more energy than usual, AND why she is overwieght! If you're interested in reading that article here is is-http://www.extension.org/pages/43843/i-am-trying-to-build-weight-and-muscle-on-my-horse-he-is-being-fed-calf-manna-as-a-supplement-to-a-pe
Also, alflalfa has lysine (sp?) , which is essential for muscle building, so if you end up feeding an all timothy diet *which is healthier for your horse* I would feed vitamin mineral supplement for easy keepers fed grass, and a lysine supplement if you are worried about muscle mass. . .
Best Wishes! PLEASE feel free to ask me questions
Wisper xxx

“Good things come to those who wait… greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen.” - Unknown
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post #9 of 10 Old 11-25-2011, 09:04 AM
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timothy and grass hay

Is Timothy and grass hay the same thing?
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post #10 of 10 Old 11-25-2011, 09:13 AM
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Timothy is a type of grass hay. So is Orchard, Bermuda, Coastal, etc.

Alfalfa is a type of Legume hay. Along with Clover and some others.

Here's a good article on different types: http://www.horsechannel.com/horse-he...hay-23205.aspx

Mom to 3 bays: Beau, Daisy & Cavalina

Last edited by My Beau; 11-25-2011 at 09:16 AM.
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